UH Honeybee-Pollinator Expo
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Posted on November 3, 2010 in Education | Short Link

Join Volcano Island Honey at the UH Honeybee-Pollinator Expo this Friday, November 5th, 8 am – 4 pm at the East West Center at UH Manoa.

honeybeepollinatorThe Honeybee / Pollinator Expo 2010 will explore the current problems of bee health and pollinator consercation in Hawaii along with the proposed solutions to these important issues. The conference will cover the scientific and practical challenges of pollinator conservation in the local agricultural landscape and examine the changes that can be adopted to promote pollinator safety and sustainability in food production. International and local bee researchers will present their most recent findings at the conference, where they will be joined by local industry leaders of the beekeeping and agricultural community, making this gathering a great opportunity to learn from their leadership and experience regarding management and conservation of pollinators.

Demonstration booths will be open from 10 am to 3:30 pm. The participants include honey producers from various islands who will be providing free honey samples from their respective apiaries.

Between 11 am to 1 pm the students from the Kapiolani Community College chapter of Slow Food International will be providing samples of foods prepared using local honey.

Science teachers are encouraged to attend the conference and to join us at a breakout session to discuss curriculum development related to pollination and agriculture.

If you are an interested teacher please contact Dr. Ethel Villalobos at emv@hawaii.edu for more details.

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Children + Bees = Lots of Fun
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Posted on October 13, 2010 in Education | Short Link

Richard was recently in California visiting his daughter and her family. What started out as an idea to talk to his grandson Hayden’s class evolved into a presentation to the entire 1st grade (about 100 children) at Lilac School in Valley Center, California.

IMG_1723In teaching about the parts of a bee Richard asked who had been stung by a bee. Everyone raised their hand except one child. Having been stung many times, Richard shared his experience about how to best to handle bee stings. Only a small percentage of the population are seriously allergic to bees, but there seems to be a lot of fear about being stung. Richard often helps people to feel comfortable around bees and to realize that they are actually gentle and only defensive when threatened (true for the European Honeybees that we work with!)

richard spiegel first gradersThe first grade has been studying the natural world and insects in particular. Connecting the behavior of bees to geometry and science, Richard talked about bees and their communication through triangulation, performing the waggle dance.

Richard also assigned some homework! We use centrifugal force when spinning the honey out of the frames. Centrifugal force can be experienced at home by spinning in a circle with your arms hanging loose…they start to come up and out away from your body. Another fun home experiment is to set out a dish of honey and watch for the bees. First you will see one or two (the scouts!) and when more bees start to appear, you will know that they are doing the waggle dance and telling the other bees where to find the honey!

observation hiveThe observation hive is always a hit! Not able to bring a hive and bees from Hawaii, Richard borrowed the observation hive and bees from beekeeper and queen breeder Tom Glenn. Tom is breeding VSH (Varroa sensitive hygenic) queens, which we are all hoping is a long term solution to the varroa mite problem.

Posted by Andrea Dean.

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Favorite Ways to Use Our Honey Contest- And the winners are…

Posted on September 13, 2010 in Our Honey | Short Link

Straight out of the jar is a very popular favorite way to use our honey and our customers came up with some great new ideas!

All of your great ideas and comments are listed below, but Joshua and Ann (first two posts) won jars of our silk honey for their innovative ideas:

  • Joshua: Flax cracker, silk honey, oily tahini, banana, chili pepper.
  • Ann: I like to infuse it with lavender.
  • Jen B: While I’ve used it in tea, crepes (with peanut butter), and on toast in the past, the only way I eat it now is straight out of the jar with a spoon. Volcano Island honey is too delicious to add anything else to it!
  • Jen S: The BEST treat to make using delicious Volcano honey is blending it with some pecans and raw butter. Watch out! You can substitute any nut of your choice but my fav is pecans.
  • Rae: My favorite way to enjoy your amazing honey is to spread it on a fresh buttermilk biscuit right out of the oven. The heat of the biscuit releases all of the honey aroma…its heavenly!
  • Tom: Macadamia nut butter and honey on very thinly sliced whole wheat bread. I get to go back to Hawaii with every bite.
  • Mark: I make Mead from honey and would love to try this variety out. Mead is a wine made from honey!!!!
  • Jeffery: My “G” rated favorite way to use your fab honey is straight out of the jar, don’t mess with perfection!
  • Joy: Jeffery is right..Your honey is great just by itself and I like honey so much that I also use it on oatmeal and my favorite is Fresh Ginger Root Tea with honey..
  • Gillian: I like it spread on toast. I’ve also used it in both ways above. But my favorite way is in my homemade honey -mustard dressing.
  • Fern: A little dab on a spoon and voila!
  • Chieko: In fruity white tea!
  • Rosemarie: I use it to sweeten my coffee in place of sugar. I think it’s a more complex and enjoyable taste combination. With a splash of almond milk it beats any ordinary latte or “coffee” drink… much healthier too!
  • Trista: Right out of the jar.
  • Mel: Heat up one cup of milk and add two teaspoon of honey. It’s soothing for a stomach ache.
  • Jen: Straight out of the jar.
  • Anne: Well, the other day I had a super wicked tart batch of blackberries … those huge ones. So I took my jar of your yummy honey and ate one berry, then a tiny spoon dipped in the honey jar and ate that. Then the next berry, then a tiny spoonful of honey. And so on. Not too much honey to overwhelm the berry … juuuuuuust enough. Basically, I ended up with a very yummy healthy snack that day of berries and your lovely honey. Thank you!

Thanks to all of our customers who sent in their ideas… and please keep adding to this list!

Posted by Andrea Dean.

L’shana tova and Have A Good and Sweet Year!
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Posted on September 8, 2010 in Lifestyle | Short Link

‎”L’shana tova”- The traditional greeting for Rosh Hashanah is customarily extended on the first evening of Rosh Hashana, tonight, Sept 8th! L’shanah tovah or L’shana tova means “for a good year”.

Traditionally, Jewish people eat apple with honey on Rosh Hashanah – hopefully Volcano Island Honey! Dip the apple in some Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey and may you be blessed with a good year. Read here about the tradition of dipping an apple in honey.

We at Volcano Island Honey also want to say, “shana tova umetukah”- for a good and sweet year.

Posted by Andrea Dean

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Win a Free Jar of Silk Honey! Tell us your favorite ways to use our honey…

Posted on September 1, 2010 in Our Honey | Short Link


Win a Free Jar of our Silk Honey:

Tell us your favorite ways to use our honey. We will select the most interesting and unusual entries and award silk honey! Your best ideas and winners will be featured on our blog in September.

So…your favorite way to use our honey is…

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Authentic Connection at Volcano Island Honey
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Posted on August 18, 2010 in Apiary Tours | Short Link

What are you looking for when you travel?

When I travel I am looking to connect with the people and the place in a deep and authentic way. Yes… I want to read books and improve upon my tan, but I also want to feel connected to something outside of my ordinary range of experience.

Andrea dancing with new friends at a kava party in Lawena, Taveuni, Fiji.

Andrea dancing with new friends at a kava party in Lawena, Taveuni, Fiji.

I just got back from a trip to Fiji and was deeply touched by the depth of my visitor experience. I stayed in a number of places that were owned and run by Fijians, and in some cases owned and run by the village. The connection between my visitor dollars and the good it did in the communities where I stayed was real and immediate. I never felt so good spending money! In exchange, I got to experience Fijian nature and culture in a real, authentic way.

Andrea (at left), Mary and Fijian friends in Sabeto, Viti Levu.

Andrea (at left), Mary and Fijian friends in Sabeto, Viti Levu.

Given my interest in food self-sufficiency, I was always on the lookout for how people were growing and harvesting food. In summary- cassava and taro, everywhere! There was no formal “agri-tourism,” but every experience was an opportunity to sample native foods. On the outer islands, you don’t go to the food store for your food you go to the land and sea.

At one point I was sharing granola bars with some villagers. “Are these Hawaiian snacks?” they asked. “Well…not exactly, I bought them at Costco.” And then I found myself having to explain what Costco was to the people who brought me a dinner the night before that consisted entirely of foods they grew or harvested from the ocean on that day.

Agriculture in Hawaii is second only to tourism in terms of an economic driver- and some farms have married the two together creating “agri-tourism” on the Big Island. Visiting working farms is a great way to connect with Hawaii residents, explore new areas of the island, and sample the bounty of the land.

Students from DePauw University sampling bee pollen.

Students from DePauw University sampling bee pollen.

Volcano Island Honey has been welcoming visitors to the bee farm, or “apiary,” for over 20 years. The bees have so much wisdom to share with us about how to live gently on the earth and in community with one another. Richard Spiegel, owner of Volcano Island Honey has been passionate about the bees and the environment for over 30 years.

Richard shows Lama Dhondup a frame from the bee hive.

Richard shows Lama Dhondup a frame from the bee hive.

Visiting Volcano Island Honey is always an authentic experience because Richard wears his heart on his sleeve (or his bee suit, as the case may be!) When you visit, Richard (resident beekeeper-hippy-lawyer-philosopher) shares his personal and professional philosophy evolved from over 30 years of working with the bees.

Next time you are visiting Hawaii, or have friends or family visiting you- consider spending part of a day at Volcano Island Honey. The company has just launched a new Private Artisan Apiary Tour designed to give visitors more one-on-one time with Richard and the Bees. (You even get to put on a bee suit and explore the inside of a hive, but you don’t have to!)

Posted by Andrea Dean.

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Richard Spiegel visits with Ross Conrad- A Kindred Bee Soul
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Posted on July 14, 2010 in Beekeeping | Short Link

Richard Spiegel, Owner of Volcano Island Honey Co, just got back from a trip to the East Coast to visit family, friends, and bees. He went to Vermont and stopped in for a visit with Ross Conrad, Owner of Dancing Bee Gardens and author of Natural Beekeeping, which has been a source of inspiration for beekeepers at Volcano Island Honey for years.


Richard found that he and Ross share a similar philosophy when it comes to beekeeping and the role of bees on the earth. Volcano Island Honey produces an organic, artisan honey that requires a high degree of attunement with the cycles of the bees. In order to maintain a close relationship with the bees Richard has kept the business intentionally small, managing between 130-150 hives. Most commercial beekeepers manage thousands of hives. Speaking to the organic approach in Natural Beekeeping, Ross Conrad says, “This emphasis on quality over quantity is perhaps the defining notion of the organic agricultural movement.

A focus on quality over quantity has made Volcano Island Honey the company that it is. VIHC always leaves enough honey for the bees, so that the hive can maintain itself in the way that nature intended. Many large commercial apiaries take all of the honey from the bees and then feed the bees sugar- not their natural food! VIHC also uses “bee escapes” as a less invasive and non-violent way to vacate bees from the hive before harvesting. This is more labor intensive, but it is more gentle to the bees and does not kill bees. VIHC respects the bees as intelligent beings and teachers, instead of as a tool for making honey and money. We also make our own wax foundation, using our own beeswax to avoid beeswax from other sources that may be contaminated by toxins & chemicals.

Richard sees the bees as teachers- even after working closely with the bees for over 30 years he continues to learn lessons from the bees. Bees teach us many things about cooperative society and environmental sustainability. Beekeeping is an agricultural endeavor that has a positive environmental footprint. The bees give back and make the environment in which they live a better place. Not only do they share their incredible gifts of honey and wax, but they also help pollinate the area and increase the agricultural output of the trees and plants. Quoting Ross from Natural Beekeeping, “The honey bee inspires me to work into my daily life this lesson: That we should give something back and improve upon things, thus making the world a better place.” VIHC strives to make the world a better place through conscious management of every aspect of the business. However, even with all of this striving, it is very hard to create a positive environmental impact while running a business. The activities of the bees are an environmental plus, but the impact of the human activities of packaging and shipping are hard to avoid and hard to mitigate. “It is easy to talk about being a sustainable business, but it is very hard to live these things, try as we might,” says Richard Spiegel.

Bees are truly one of the natural wonders of the world- they make honey and wax- two things that humans have found very useful for thousands of years. Humans have figured out how to make wax from petroleum (yuck! beeswax candles are superior in every way!) but not to make honey. “Honey is something so precious and special; even with our highly developed technological sciences, we humans still have not been able to duplicate the efforts of the simple honey bee and create the same substance from what amounts to nothing more than sugar and water,” says Conrad in Natural Beekeeping. VIHC believes in using the honey as close to its natural state as possible and keeps the honey raw. Just like Volcano Island Honey, Dancing Bee Gardens also produces organic, raw honey.

So who’s smarter- Man or Bee? Well…you decide!

Watch this video of Ross Conrad speaking about his discovery of beekeeping and his all-natural methods for maintaining a healthy and thriving bee population.

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Growing Organic Children
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Posted on June 18, 2010 in Lifestyle | Short Link

Richard Spiegel and the team at Volcano Island Honey Company have been practicing and promoting sustainable business and sustainable agriculture for 30 years. VIHC has attracted international attention for its exquisite, artisan honey and innovative business practices. But perhaps Richard’s most influential work was done quietly at home, in the garden. The world’s most important and unrecognized job- raising children!

shaina and veggies

Following in the organic family footsteps, Richard’s daughter Shaina had a career at QAI (Quality Assurance International), one of the world’s largest organic certifiers. When Shaina left QAI to focus on raising her children, she continued to weave her belief in organic agriculture into her home life. Shaina’s homestead, in a small country town north of Escondido, California, has a sizable organic garden, chickens, avocado, fruit and nut trees.

kid broccoli
veggie stir fry
kid 5 broccoli

This blog post was inspired by some pictures (above) that Shaina recently sent to Richard of grandchildren Hayden, Sierra and Leila Jane, on harvest day at their homestead. All three helped harvest, prepare, cook and then enjoyed eating a delicious meal from their garden.

eating 2
veggie pasta

Known as “the plant lady,” Shaina has been instrumental in getting a school garden program off the ground (or into the ground as the case may be!) at her son Hayden’s school. Richard loves seeing the positive influence of a healthy, natural lifestyle on his grandchildren and the other children that Shaina works with.

“My daughter Shaina grew up around the organic honey business and in our organic garden in Hawaii. Shaina and her children are proof that we can change the world and influence many suceeding generations by living what we believe,” says Richard. “What a great legacy.”

In addition to nurturing our own children, Volcano Island Honey Company hosts lot of school groups at the farm. Over the years, hundreds of school children have learned about the bees and enjoyed taking home their own little jars of honey with spoons.

How sweet is that?

Posted by Andrea Dean

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VIHC Wins 2010 Kuleana Green Business Award
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Posted on May 7, 2010 in Media | Short Link

Diane Chadwick, Co-Chair of the Kuleana Committee presents Richard Spiegel with the 2010 Kuleana Award.

Diane Chadwick, Co-Chair of the Kuleana Committee presents Richard Spiegel with the 2010 Kuleana Award.

Volcano Island Honey Co. (VIHC) was recognized for its ongoing commitment to social and environmental principles in business as the winner of this year’s Kuleana Award. The Kuleana Award is presented each year at the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Kuleana Green Business & Environment Conference. VIHC is a member of Green America and the Kuleana Green Business Program- both programs which screen businesses for social and environmental practices.

A Leader in Triple Bottom Line Businesses on the Big Island and the State of Hawaii
Richard Spiegel started Volcano Island Honey Company as a hobby in the late 1970’s and formalized the business around 1993. Before anyone on the Big Island even heard of “triple bottom line” business, Richard was doing it. I think it can safely be said that Volcano Island Honey Company is the original “triple bottom line” business of the Big Island, and maybe even in the state. Even though VIHC is a small company, from the beginning Richard was passionate about caring for employees and the community, making as little environmental impact as possible, improving the environment whenever possible, making a profit, and sharing the profits with employees and the community through non-profit donations. He has codified these practices into the business and calls Volcano Island Honey Co. a business with an “Uncommon Philosophy.” Read more about the specific environmental and socially responsible practices of Volcano Island Honey Co.

An Environmental Advocate
Richard has taken a leading role in the beekeeping industry to advocate for safe and non-toxic treatment of varroa mites. The general trend is to use toxic chemicals in hives, which the mites eventually develop resistance to. This is bad for bees, people, environment and the agricultural industry that relies on bees. He could care just about his own business, but he has spent many precious hours fighting for all the bees, the environment, and our agriculture industry. Richard has also worked for years to preserve the Puako Kiawe forest instead of having it developed into a golf course. The Puako Kiawe forest, located on the South Kohala coast on the Big Island, is one of the largest contiguous kiawe forests in the state, is a major forage habitat for bees, and a potential source of firewood, and other value-added products. VIHC, in partnership with Neil Logan, has developed a conservation and sustainable management proposal for the forest with the intention of identifying a philanthropic investor who can take advantage of the tax benefits of a conservation purchase.

Most people think of kiawe as a junk tree, but VIHC knows better. VIHC has invested over ten thousand dollars into the study of the community economic and environmental benefit of kiawe. Did you know that the bean makes a high protein flour? It is a delicious cooking flour and could help contribute to island food self-sufficiency!

Posted by Andrea Dean.

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The Beauty of the Bee Swarm

Posted on April 8, 2010 in Beekeeping | Short Link

A few years ago there was a bee swarm in my neighborhood. For a few days it was the talk of the town. Did you see that bee swarm? Are they angry? Are they looking for a person or animal to attack? Are they lost? Looking for their hive? It was both beautiful and frightening to the uninformed.

Richard says that some people are into horses, but if you don't know what you are doing a horse can hurt you. Bees are the same. If you don't know what you are doing you can get hurt. But if you understand what is happening, you will be fine. Richard is so friendly with the bees he captures the swarm with his bare hands.Don't try this at home!

Richard says that some people are into horses, but if you don't know what you are doing a horse can hurt you. Bees are the same. If you don't know what you are doing you can get hurt, but if you understand what is happening, you will be fine. Richard is so friendly with the bees he captures the swarm with his bare hands. Don't try this at home!

The main reason that bees swarm out of the hive is that there is overcrowding in the hive. When the space gets too tight for so many bees, about half of them take off and go looking for a new home. An old queen also contributes to the instinct to swarm. The bees have a natural intelligence about when to leave and form a new hive, and this helps perpetuate the species. This works perfectly for bees in the wild. In managed hives, however, beekeepers want to avoid swarming because you lose half of your bees and decreases your honey production in that hive. Beekeepers keep an eye on the size of the hive and try to manage against swarming.

The bees are smart about when they swarm. They choose a sunny day with light wind and try to leave early to give themselves plenty of time to find a new hive. The bees swarm out of the hive with the queen, the bees stay close together because of their attraction to a pheromone produced by the queen. Then they cluster together in the shade, while scouts go out to look for a new hive location. The entire swarm does not go out hive hunting together. The bees prefer to build a new hive in a cavity, like a hole in a tree. As we know, bees will sometimes find a cavity in or around a house if they can find a way in- we hear many stories of bees nesting between walls. Scouts look for the new nesting site and come back to guide the way when they find a suitable location.

We recently had a bee swarm from one of our hives at Volcano Island Honey in Ahualoa and the bees clustered under a bush while waiting for their scouts to come back. Since these bees swarmed out of one of the Volcano Island Honey hives, Richard wanted to catch them back and give them a new hive. You will see in the video below that Richard is making sure that he captures the queen as well as the rest of the bees. If he doesn’t capture the queen, the bees will swarm out of the new hive.

Bees, in general, do not attack people. They primarily exhibit defensive behavior and will sting if they perceive a threat to the hive. A bee swarm is a group of bees moving to a new home and they usually eat a big honey meal before they go. Full of honey and without a home, they are not at their most aggressive. They are not out and about with aggressive intentions, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t sting if they felt threatened. You can see in the video above that Richard is capturing the swarm with his bare hands!

The swarm will usually move on to their new nesting site within a day or two. You can call a beekeeper to capture the bees if they locate themselves in your home, or if you want the swarm gone sooner than they are ready. Some beekeepers like to catch wild swarms and put them in managed hives. They feel that wild bees might be stronger and add genetic diversity to the other colonies.

There was recently another bee swarm down in Puako…here are some pictures from that:
The swarm is on the move!

The swarm is on the move!

The swarm settles down on a tree branch to await the return of the scouts.

The swarm settles down on a tree branch to await the return of the scouts.

Posted by Andrea Dean

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